Ideas for an ACKS/DaW ready-to-play campaign

So I’m not much of a RPG developer or writer (sans a few forthcoming credits in non-Autarch OSR products) but I have been stewing over some ideas for a campaign package/PDF/whatever that utilizes materials included in ACKS and DaW. The shame of DaW currently is that there isn’t any prepared scenarios on the macro-level.

Here is what I am imagining:

  • Map of the campaign world is the ‘outdoor survival’-based hex map from the DaW KS.

  • The PCs are mid-level citizens of a Lawful kingdom comprising of some part of the campaign world. Depending on class, they have different roles in the Kingdom but at the very least Fighters will represent members of the military structure of the kingdom. Not sure about pre-gens, but the PC should be levels 5 to 8 or so.

  • The campaign has a driving force in the form of war. In direct threat, there is a large chaotic domain (perhaps ruled over by a reasonably high level ruinguard). There might also be smaller polities on the map, that may be opportunities for diplomatic missions to form alliances against a common foe. A competing neutral kingdom for instance, that may work with the Lawful kingdom under the right circumstances or throw in with the ‘dark forces’.

  • The campaign would follow a routine based on the seasons of a year. During the Spring and Summer, it is military campaign season. The PCs will be given command over some of the Lawful Kingdom’s military (either as premier leaders or as subordinates) and move their armies utilizing the DaW Campaigns rules and then using the Battles rules for pitched battles against the Chaotic armies. While the armies prepare for winter during the Autumn and Winter months, this gives the PCs opportunities to go dungeon delving, with the actual purpose of finding artifacts that would help the war effort. These relics may be holy treasures that will provide morale bonuses in pitched combat, or magical weapons, etc. The purpose is to give them larger reasons for hitting up dungeons, to help the overall effort to ‘save the land’.

  • Dungeon delving may lead the PCs into conflict with important Chaotic commanders, who are also searching for artifacts. Killing those guys in the dungeon may mean the armies won’t have good leaders. Everything is treated as a sandbox, minimal railroading.

  • Ultimately the campaign would end either in Lawful victory or defeat. Principally the leader of the Chaotic forces would need to die, either in a heroic foray during an epic army battle or during a targeted infiltration of his home-base in a late-campaign dungeon delve. Also, if the Chaotic armies are able to hold morale, they may also need to be routed at the macro-level for the campaign to truly end (or continue if that’s what the gaming group wants).

The problem with something like this is that it would be a lot of work to put together. Obviously number crunching for settlements and armies would need to be done, not to mention creating and filling dungeons. I would take awhile trying to put it together if I actually tried. But this is maybe something that the community can create open-source as well, for those also interested. Just spitballing.


Sounds like a great idea and a pretty good match for the patreon idea that was mentioned some time ago!

I think my preference would be for it to be, instead of last Chaotic character standing, some sort of point system for Chaotic characters.

Chaotic characters should be encouraged not to directly attack each other (because if you do that, there’s basically no chance Law will lose), but rather, to manipulate their teammates into taking the brunt of the costs for the least gains, while also trying to net the most points for themselves.

Thus, instead of them actually attacking each other (most of the time), you would see instead competition for who gets to land the last hit on a Lawful commander, or who gets to actually be the one who finishes razing a city, and so on. Objectives that require teamwork but only reward the one who finishes it.

Competing incentives are how you get really good Chaotic behavior out of people.

edit: My whitespace is not working properly. I think it might be a Visual Editor bug. I switched the style to Filtered HTML and it came back.

If you wanted to be extra-hardcore, you could design it to be played semi-competitively by two parties, one Lawful and one Chaotic. For bonus points, set up your victory conditions to encourage Lawful and Chaotic behavior, respectively - the entire Lawful team can win by eliminating all Chaotic commanders, but if all Lawful players are eliminated only the last independent Chaotic domain/lineage standing wins. Maybe unholy powers also offer boons to Lawful players who defect, for maximum mayhem.

… kinda wish I had enough players to run something like that, now.

Anyway, to address your actual post content, doing settlement math isn’t all that much work for most reasonably-sized realms; maybe a weekend’s work. A high-quality 6-mile hexmap also isn’t that bad for a standard region; I’ve come to love 1.5-mile hexes, which take a bit longer. Dungeons are really the main pain-point for me in terms of setting generation. You need a reason for there to be a dungeon, and then a map, and then the rooms have to have reasons to exist, and the monsters need to be both powerful enough and make sense in the setting… it’s just a hassle, especially for high-level dungeons, which require absurd monster-power and treasure densities. Which is why I switch to mostly wilderness lairs, some of which may have multiple monster types in them, as my primary abstraction at 5th+ level or so.

Chaotic characters should be encouraged not to directly attack each other (because if you do that, there’s basically no chance Law will lose)

I’m not sure I agree. A clever Chaotic team will postpone its collective sudden but inevitable betrayals until Law is destroyed, or at the very least greatly weakened. Such a Chaotic team would likely see the same sort of manipulations as under a points scoring system, particularly in the late game as the hour of betrayal grows near and making sure your “allies” are weakened becomes pressing. That said, I’m not at all opposed to dark powers granting known bonus XP, rolls on the Evil Blessings table, or other in-game awards to their boldest and most successful champions, at which point risky behavior and victory-stealing become propositions to be carefully weighed.

If someone goes early-game Chaotic Stupid and tries to unify Chaos under their banner, than yeah, Law will probably win. There’s also the possibility that someone launches their betrayal before Law is truly destroyed, giving it a chance to recover, rally, maybe ally with one of the weakened Chaotic commanders, and otherwise lead to interesting political situations.

Ed: these new editors :. Wish there were a way to set a default text format on a per-user basis…

I think I’m also OK with Law having a higher win rate, or with each Chaotic commander receiving an initially stronger army than their Lawful counterpart, to counterbalance Chaotic cooperation issues (as well as to tempt them to betray earlier). I love asymmetric games, though, so YMMV.

The problem with last-man-standing mechanics is that they incentivize the entire team ganging up on the first person who becomes temporarily weak. This is especially true in an RPG system rather than a board game, where you can take over their armies and land once you get rid of that pesky fellow player.

This leads both to predictable gameplay (which isn’t what you want) and to fun issues (it’s not real fun to have your whole team kick you out of the game, and expecting that to happen to the first person who becomes weak means that no one wants to take any risks).

That said I think it absolutely has to be asymmetric even with a point-based mechanic, because teamwork is very powerful.

Fair enough. I could be brought around to a scoring mechanic; my primary objection, honestly, is that a fuzzy mechanic that exists purely for scoring is very dissociated. I would prefer a mechanic tied in to the gameworld in some way. Thinking about it in the shower, I could sort of see divine power being workable if you altered the rules for earning it a bit, and then each chaotic player is devoted to a different cthonic deity with conflicting interests (and portfolio, boons, possibly units). Blood and glory for the blood god &c.

In the end, any victory mechanic other than ‘keep playing until only one player survives’ is dissociated :stuck_out_tongue: (Even giving Law a ‘team victory’ is slightly dissociated.)

I prefer to think of the points system as an abstraction, rather than dissociation, though, to save time from continuing to play with only Chaotic characters left. I’m not envisioning a ‘reach this many points and win’ scenario so much as one where, when every Lawful character is defeated, whichever Chaotic character has the most points wins. My thought is that it would simply be an abstraction for the inevitable falling out and betrayals and wars fought until one faction stands triumphant over the entire world.

That said I do like the idea of basing it off divine power and having each Chaotic player devoted to a different deity. It would help individualize the factions and goals, so everyone isn’t trying to do the exact same thing.

I think this is a good idea, bar one element: I think trying to tie a campaign to dungeoneering is self-defeating. The two things are largely orthoganal.

The campaigning is overland and intrinsically linked to big stuff going on in the game world. The dungeon takes the PCs away from their armies and campaigning activities for what is essentially an ancillary side-quest. Why would the Chaotic commander take themselves away from their army to go down into a hole in the ground? Surely they’d either be in a marching camp, or fortified somewhere?

It seems like the dungeon part is being shoe-horned into what is otherwise about overland stuff.

yeah, and ACKS could work well dungeonless, you have mass combat and raiding for xp/gold, spionage and money farming crime for the thiefs, and hunting parties to search monster parts for the mages experiments.

I have tended to run basically-dungeonless after about 5th-6th level, yeah.

I've had the same thought as well.

I was halfway or so through a full ACKS conversion of Red Hand of Doom, a 3X module that was relatively popular at the time, which kind of follows the same theme. It's aping Lord of the Rings, transparently; a small party (the PCs) unite Lawful armies against Chaos.

I haven't touched it in a while, because it became evident a fuller re-envisioning would better show off ACKS' capabilities. It was certainly an interesting exercise, though.

It did present a set of victory conditions, much like other games in that same sort of theme (Ares Games' 'War of the Ring', a token-based, card-event wargame). 

I think that's important for something like this - the option should be there to end the game when the backend math becomes clear that due to either side gaining enough allies or hamstringing the other side's efforts enough that the final outcome of the war becomes a matter of 'sweeping up'. More dedicated groups could certainly continue the campaign in whatever direction it ends up going, but providing the "wargame end" option would give an achievable, measurable endpoint for those who are experiencing the system for the first time or wanting a closed storyline.

The 'dungeon' events in RoHD were mostly centered around eliminating resources for the Chaos side - areas where they were breeding monsters, or a lich creating undead units; hunting down Chaos generals/leaders in various ruins and such. LotR analogues may be Aragorn recruiting the dead of Dunharrow to his cause, or eliminating Saruman as a contributor.

One good thing to include may be a schedule of events for Chaos; this is one thing RHoD did well - the planned schedule of Chaos' war footing and movements given nothing extraordinary was done against them. It allowed me to create a timetable of events with D@W:C, including getting the various armies organized, marching them to destinations, time spent sacking the settlements, etc. I was also able to build into that assumptions about what forces the Lawful domains would be able to muster, conscript, and move in that same schedule - when allies were "activated", I could then say when their forces would be available and/or reinforced.

And that all could be plotted out for Law for a group wanting to play as Chaos, and held in hand by the Judge for a group that decides on a PvP exercise.

RHoD did take the Chaos commanders off the field alot, and I'd agree with Kiero it was a weakness. I can understand the cinematic aspect of wanting a final showdown (and they kept the high general, blessed of Tiamat, off the field, and I'd bet one of my five dragon heads she'd have expectations of hands-on management) but D@W has Heroic Forays for that very reason. 


Granted it’s my anti-dungeon bias showing, but I’d find a Heroic Foray in the middle of a battle a much more climactic showdown than an artificially constructed side-trip underground.